Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Chickpea Tagine

Seems that everyone's interested in eating a little lower on the food chain these days. Maybe it's the price of groceries that's gotten people's attention. Or maybe it's the burgeoning awareness of the carbon footprint we leave by our food choices. (Read this article in the New York Times for why Italian wine makers are now putting their wine in boxes!) Or maybe it's finally sinking in that a diet high in red meat is a diet which has serious health consequences. But whatever the reasons may be, people seem to be eating more vegetarian meals these days. If you don't believe me, check out Terry B's post at Blue Kitchen. Even the staunchest of omnivores has decided that a vegetarian meal now and then is probably a good idea!

But let's face it: If it doesn't taste good, why bother? I don't care how healthy a meal might be, if it chews like rubber and tastes like a tree root, I'd rather die young and happy. Fortunately, we don't have to make those choices. For two years running, I've taken trips to India, and have found many terrific dishes which are strictly vegetarian. There are even many dishes there which are vegan, and I've left the table feeling completely satisfied. Well.....minus the dark chocolate, of course. But that's another story....

This last trip to India ended with a dinner in Delhi, at the home of Tapas Baneerji, his wife Krishna and their son Arjuna. Tapas was the man who put together our trip to India last year, and the part of our trip this year which included Kashmir. The man who took us to Tapas' house also ate dinner with us, and when we all sat down for the meal, Krishna asked him if it was a day where he would be eating meat. Yes, in fact it was. I asked him about that and he told us that one day a week he eats vegan and the rest of the time he eats whatever he wants. I thought about that one. It seemed like a gentle approach to lightening up. It didn't require him to give up too much too often. After all, it was only one day a week!

So I've decided to incorporate that idea into my own lifestyle. I had already made the decision to eat a vegetarian meal each week - or perhaps even two. This was just a simple step further. But I knew that I didn't want every vegetarian or vegan meal to be inspired by the cuisine of any one country. I know myself well enough to know that boredom would set in too quickly. And then, as if the universe heard me, I received a copy of the Vegetarian Times in my clinic. This was the October edition, and it contained several recipes based on Morrocan cuisine minus the meat. I saw a couple of recipes for tagines and I was in! Besides, these were recipes which could be made in 30 minutes, more or less - perfect for a weeknight.

This first one I tried had me hooked. It plays the sweet of honey against the spice of cayenne pepper, and I've always loved that combination of flavors. Try it and enjoy! If you want to make this a vegan meal, you can skip the yogurt. I've eaten it without and trust me - you won't miss it.


2 TBS olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced (1 TBS)
2 14.5oz cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
1/4C dried currants
1tsp ground turmeric
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2tsp hone
1/2 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
3 TBS finely chopped parsley


1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garllic and saute 2-3 minutes, or until onion slices are soft. Stir in chickpeas, carrots, currants, spices, honey and 2 C water. Coer and simmer 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Divide tagine among 4 bowls. Garnish each serving with a dollop of yogurt and sprinkle with parsley.
The good news? This dish is listed as having (per serving) 414 calories, 14gm protein, 12.5 gm of total fat (3.5 saturated - if you add the yogurt), 65 gm carbs, 5 mg cholesterol (again - only if you add the yogurt), 601 mg sodium, 12 gm. fiber!, and 13 gm sugars.

For more health news, visit Mission Valley Acupuncture

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Shrimp with tomato and garlic

The shrimp were on sale. The tomatoes came from the garden of a friend. I had a friend coming to dinner. It was a slam-dunk.

Sometimes I turn to recipes for ideas. This time I didn't need to. The ingredients practically formed a chorus and yelled "USE US TOGETHER!!" That's one of the nice things about being very busy. I spent a great deal of the day gardening. I raked and clipped and hauled 6 huge bags of yard waste. Back in the old days, I used to turn this into compost. I will do that again someday when I get my landscaping finished and have some space for a compost. Right now, I'm working towards clearing enough space for a tree trimmer to chop back this wild overgrowth of ficus and elm trees that have invaded my yard, swallowing up all the light as well as my canyon view.

But with company coming, I didn't have time to think about much other than the clock. Needed to finish the yard, the laundry and get something going for a meal. The beauty of being this busy is that you just keep moving, and things get done. The beauty of this dish is that it doesn't take much time. The only thing that took time was shelling the shrimp. The ones that were on sale had the shells on, so that meant a little more work. But that was basically it.

To make this, I used something like a pound of shrimp, shelled and deveined. I used a rounded teaspoon of chopped garlic out of a jar, threw it in a pan with some canola oil, added some chopped tomatoes, cooked them for about 3 minutes, then turned the flame off. I chopped a little basil from the garden and put a mixture of wild and basmati rice on to boil. When it was time to turn it down to a simmer, I tossed in whatever I had available in my herb collection, which was thyme. When the rice was done, I added some frozen peas, fluffed the whole thing with a fork and put the lid back on.

By then my friend had arrived, so I poured us a glass of wine, and we sat outside, sipping some cab and eating macadamia nuts. When it was time to serve the meal, I turned up the flame under the tomatoes, added the shrimp and the basil and cooked until the shrimp was pink - about 3-4 minutes. A clean yard, clean laundry, a gourmet meal and time with a friend. How good can it get?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Rememberance

Today we remember.........Today we honor the memory of those who died that day, and we extend our thoughts and prayers to the families of those who lost loved ones.